Jay-Z prepares for Made in America with 4:44, a blueprint for the new generation
Rappers from Kendrick Lamar, 2 Chainz, Migos, Future, Drake, Rick Ross, Big Sean, Wale, Gucci Mane, Big Boi, Vince Staples, Joey Bada$$ have all contributed to making the first half of 2017 a great year for hip hop. And a few weeks ago, rap icon Jay-Z added his own huge contribution by releasing his thirteenth studio album 4:44.
By putting introspective, complicated rhymes over captivating instrumentals, it’s no shocker that the album has received general acclaim from critics and has already gone platinum — thanks to the assistance of Tidal and Sprint — just a week after its release.
“Sometimes you need your ego, gotta remind these fools/Who they effin’ with & we got FN’s too”
The entire album is produced by legendary hip hop producer No I.D., who creates soulful beats that share the same sense of emotion from track to track, paralleling the album’s themes. By sampling The Alan Parson Projects an intro like “Kill Jay Z,” can sound like a second moment of clarity for Jigga Man as he embraces the impact of his ugly truths. Even Caribbean elements from the Fugees can make a song like “Moonlight” feel like the alluring hypnosis Jay-Z speaks of that keeps the hip hop repetitive and under its spell.
No I. D. also makes sure that the whole album is short, sweet and to the point. The 10-track album is only 36 minutes and each song is under five minutes, keeping the attention of listeners with a short attention span while putting Jay-Z in a position to get everything off his chest & say only what he needs to say instead of figuring out what more can he say.
4:44 is limited to only a couple of featured artists, but each one makes sure to execute their roles in top form. Jay-Z surprises listeners on “Smile” by bringing his own mother, Gloria Carter, to recite a beautiful poem about how one can only smile when they feel free to be who they want to be. Singer / songwriter Frank Ocean adds melodies to Jay’s lyrics on “Caught Their Eyes,” and show how the truth can be spotted in the eyes of the fraudulent.
Reggae singer Damian Marley gives “Bam,” a rude boy attitude with his tunes while Hov does what he does best, gloating over beats & reminding people why he’s still king. Singer / songwriter The Dream assists the native New Yorker on “Marcy Me” which can be best described as a Hall of Fame speech from one of Brooklyn’s hometown heroes. Even the help of iconic singer’s/Jay Z’s wife, Beyoncé, voice on “Family Feud,” the respected MC takes both the old and new generation to church to call out both sides of their nonsense towards one another in hopes that they learn to win together instead of fighting one another.
“Old n***** never accepted me / New n***** is the reason I stopped drinking Dos Equis”
“What’s up Jay-Z? / You know you owe the truth to all the youth that fell in love with Jay-Z”